The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released some disturbing data, that after five years of decline, pedestrian fatalities in car crashes are on the rise. As a result, the NHTSA is holding a meeting in September to finalize new safety standards for vehicle designs.
It is expected that the NHTSA will seek to bring U.S. rules in line with those already in place in Europe and Asia and require car manufacturers to make changes in hood and bumper design so that they will absorb more of the impact during crashes with pedestrians.
Currently, bumpers are required to be heavy-duty in order to offset the repair costs in low-speed crashes. If the focus were shifted to safety for pedestrians as the main priority, bumpers would have to be weaker in order to lessen the force of vehicles on people during a crash.
Auto manufacturers disagree that design changes are necessary in order to bring about better safety for pedestrians and tout crash-avoidance technologies as a more cost-efficient way to combat the problem.
Some of the technological advances being promoted by car manufacturers include: BMW's "night vision" system that has both visual and sound cues to alert drivers to people in their path after dark and Toyota's 2012 Lexus LS models' brake technology that can supposedly stop a car going under 24 miles per hour before it hits someone.
If the comments by NHTSA chief David Strickland are any indication, however, it is likely that the NHTSA will require the auto industry to both redesign their vehicles as well as implement new crash-avoidance techniques.